There are many innocents in the epic battle between good and evil. Some people will join on the side of good because the evil invaders destroyed their home. A lot of people will join on the side of evil because Evil Is Sexy
, Rule of Cool
, or just 'cause
Then there are the people who deliberately try to stay out of the conflict. These could be the people in the Hidden Elf Village
or the Actual Pacifist
. Often they don't have a dog in the fight either way or they're just opportunists supporting both sides. No matter how you slice it, these people don't support either side more or less than any other side. That is, until the good guys turn out to be a bunch of self righteous jerkasses
or the villains Kick the Dog
. At that point, it's on
and there's going to be hell to pay.
This Trope comes in two varieties.
- The first kind is rather straight up. The neutral party is initially undecided until the villains decide to desecrate the Crystal Dragon Jesus. Then the neutral party will oppose the villains from then on.
- The second kind is less frequently used. As it turns out sometimes heroes and villains are really bad at making first impressions. After initially meeting the heroes the neutral party will decide that evil is so much cooler and join them, or vice versa. This isn't a Heel-Face Turn or a Face-Heel Turn because these people were neutral at the start of the story and would have remained so if the villains and/or heroes weren't a bunch of a-holes. They will often only go out of their way to oppose someone out of vengeance.
If the neutral faction happens to be able to crush both sides if they really wanted to, then someone has Awakened The Sleeping Giant
, and chances are, it's about to Curb Stomp
Here's hoping it's not you
Compare Default To Good
, Heroic Neutral
, Let's Get Dangerous
. Hope that no Neutrality Backlash
kicks in, when the winning side resents the person who only signed on at the last minute.
open/close all folders
- The island nation of Orb in Gundam SEED is vehemently neutral: one of their central beliefs is complete non-involvement in any wars that have nothing to do with them. In order to protect their neutrality, however, they have developed some of the most advanced military technology in the world. So the Atlantic Federation attacks them to gain it... and succeeds, except that Orb proceeds to destroy their own infrastructure rather than let the Federation have it. The remaining Orb forces throw in with the Three Ships Alliance, which opposes both sides of the war and plays a major role in ending the conflict.
- In Gundam Seed Destiny, shortly after the start of the series, Orb throws their lot in with the Earth Forces in order to avoid getting attacked and destroyed again. The characters involved with the Terminal (a secret underground organization that grew from the Three Ships Alliance) spend the duration of the series trying to invert this trope, with mixed results.
- Spider-Man had his Neutral No Longer moment in his origin story after his refusal to stop a thief on the grounds that it wasn't his problem got his Uncle Ben killed. He gave up on using his powers for fame and fortune and became a superhero.
- It takes nearly the entire series for Cade Skywalker to stop being a selfish Jerkass. After the Sith have endangered and killed just about everyone he gives a damn about, Cade declares war on them though he still doesn't accept the Jedi calling yet. That doesn't happen until the Final Battle.
- Not really. While Cade doesn't sign on with the Imperials or Jedi, he is pretty consistently against the Sith.
- The Jedi themselves choose to sit the war out thinking the Sith would turn on itself soon. But when the Sith get more despotic they soon started to join with the Fel Empire and Alliance Remnant in the war.
- Doctor Strange started out as a Dr. Jerk who cared only about himself. When circumstances confined him to the hidden retreat of the Ancient One, he realized very quickly that magic is real — and that it can be used for evil. Though he had come to the Ancient One to heal his hands, he changed his request and asked to learn magic instead, so he could fight back.
- Uatu The Watcher is a prime example. His race of omniscient watchers swears an oath of neutrality. But as Galactus approached Earth, intent on consuming it, Uatu spoke directly to the Fantastic Four, telling where to find the Ultimate Nullifier. Not a direct alignment change, but enough involvement to end his neutrality.
- The centaurs in Harry Potter are pretty much this, continually declaring their refusal to meddle in human affairs until Hagrid, carrying a dead Harry, berates them for being a "cowardly bunch o' nags". Subsequently they show up firing arrows to assist Hogwarts in the Final Battle.
- Night by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel pleads the readers to turn to this trope.
- The smugglers of the Star Wars 'verse are typically neutral - they'll take any job you happen to want, regardless of faction, and then take your competitors' tomorrow.. until the Empire starts encroaching just a little on their line of work. First they take Talon Karrde prisoner to keep him from revealing (i.e. selling) the location of the Katana fleet. After he gets broken out of prison, Karrde promptly turns around and gives it to the New Republic. Then the Empire hires a mole to stop the smugglers from banding together, who promptly ordered a hit on a smuggler meeting that killed the one unarmed guy in the room and approximately no one else. Turns out upsetting an entire underworld's worth of cutthroat low-lives is a bad idea.
- Then the Yuuzhan Vong go and make exactly the same mistake by breaking a mercenary contract. With the Mandalorians. Yeah, that'll work.
- Most of the main characters in Death Star are working for the Empire, whether enlisted or conscripted and kept from leaving. Many of the cast dislikes the Empire, but having no non-propagandistic knowledge of the Rebel Alliance they assume it's no better, so all they're doing working on the battle station is keeping themselves intact. The moral complacency of most characters is jarred after Despayre and shattered after Alderaan. Old archivist Atour Riten explicitly states in his narration that for all his life he's been apolitical, just a historian, but now that changes - killing billions of people just like that is evil.
Atour could not stand to see this happen again. He was old, he had lived a long and full life, and he decided now that whatever days he had left, he would dedicate to defeating an Empire capable of abominations.
- At the end of Adrian Tchaikovsky's Empire In Black And Gold, the Moth-kinden and the militia of Helleron finally come to aid the heroes against the evil Wasp Empire.
- In the Old Kingdom series, there were nine superpowerful magical beings in The Beginning. When the most powerful of them, The Destroyer, wanted to destroy the world again, seven of the others allied and bound him. The eighth one, Yrael, decided to remain neutral. But when The Destroyer gets free, Yrael unexpectedly decides to help bind him again.
- In Children of Dune, Duncan Idaho has to pull a Heroic Sacrifice in order to convince Stilgar to lead a rebellion against Alia Atreides.
- He does more in the book than in the miniseries. In the latter, all he does is kill his wife's lover, although, by Fremen custom, he should've challenged him to a duel first. Stilgar, who has promised neutrality, kills him in retaliation. In the book, this is not enough. Duncan proceeds to taunt and insult Stilgar until the latter is furious. Only later does Stilgar realize that this was what Duncan wanted all along. The book also specifies that Alia took the guy as a lover only because she knew he was a traitor and wanted to flush out the conspiracy.
- In the Honor Harrington books, this is played straight by the Andermani Empire. At one point the Andermani and the Manticorans come dangerously close to going to war, with ships firing on each other, but the revelation of Havenite operations in the area (including False Flag Operations and a major attack on the Manticoran base at Sidemore Station) push the Andermani the other way. And of course, let's not forget the Solarian League.
- In The Dresden Files, the Faerie Courts of Winter and Summer are neutral to the war between the White Council of Wizards and the Red Court of vampires. They offered the Council access through their territory (letting the wizards take advantage of the Alien Geometries of Faerie) but were otherwise neutral. Then in Dead Beat, the Red Court invaded Faerie in an effort to wipe out the senior leadership of the Council after an already-devastating victory, and Summer immediately fell all over the Reds, with Summer declaring war on the Red Court for the transgression. However, the Summer forces could not go on the offensive because Winter refused to move against the vampires and made to threaten Summer's borders, which only allowed the Summer fae to provide limited support to the wizards.
- However, it should be noted Queen Mab of Winter was angry and does want her vengeance against the Red Court, for this infraction and another action taken in a previous time, she simply is waiting for a time that would best suit her. So she, through a long gambit, got Harry Dresden to fight in her personal courtyard wielding Summer-enhanced fire, and destroy her wellspring. This action draws the entire Winter Army away from the boarders and allows Titania to move her forces for their vengeance. Mab would wait a few years until Harry's child was taken and he needed her help in saving her, and so Harry became her Knight. Then her vengeance would be wrought on the Court with Harry using the Court's own truly dark ritual to destroy every single Red Court vampire.
- In the Dragaera universe, a rival Dragonlord attempts to start a war with Morrolan, who employs Vlad as a security consultant. Vlad makes no effort to support Morrolan until Fornia's men come to his house and threaten him to make sure he stays out of it. Now that they've threatened him, and, further, have broken a rule he and the rest of the underground criminal syndicate hold sacred, he is pissed, joins Morralan's army out of pure spite, and winds up being a central figure in the final battle of the war.
- In The Wheel of Time, the Ogier are in many ways Captain Ersatzes of the Ents from The Lord of the Rings, though physiologically are more like sasquatch than trees. They avoid involvement in human affairs, and in the prologue of the last book are preparing to transport themselves to a new world and abandon humankind to the forces of Darkness, until Loial speaks up. We're not told what he says, but when the Ogier are next seen, they've dedicated every last member of their species who can hold an axe to the oncoming battle, where they show the meaning of the saying, "To anger the Ogier is to pull the mountain down on your head".
- A Civil Campaign has a non-combat example; Miles isn't especially interested in the inheritance conflict between two heirs to a Countship...until one of them threatens to have a murder charge laid against him if Miles doesn't vote for him. Miles promptly throws his full support behind the other heir.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Romulans insisted on remaining neutral in the war between the Dominion and the Federation/Klingon alliance. The Federation was taking such heavy casualties that Starfleet realised they could not win the war without gaining allies. The only race powerful enough to make a difference was the Romulan Empire, who had no reason at all to drop their neutral stance due to the fact their three major rival powers were exhausting themselves while they watched from the sidelines in the hope they could mop up the Alpha Quadrant after the war was over. Sisko decided to do something to bring the Romulans into the war on the Federation's side and recruited Garak to come up with the franchise's best example of a Batman Gambit to achieve it.
- In a Star Trek Expanded Universe novel, the entire plot is revealed to have been a ploy by Starfleet Intelligence to bring the Klingons out of their neutral state in regards to Federation-Romulan negotiations on the side of the Federation by making the Romulans appear to be dishonorable and underhanded (not a difficult task, mind you). This results in the Treaty of Algeron, when the Romulans close their borders for several decades in exchange for the Federation banning all cloaking research.
- The Archangel Gabriel on Supernatural pulls off one of these. It's a combination of the two types: on the one hand, he has bonded with planet earth and its denizens, i.e. the good guys in this story, and wouldn't be doing this otherwise. On the other, it wasn't enough to make him take sides until Lucifer went and started slaughtering his friends and girlfriend at the pagan god convention, so if Luci hadn't Kicked The Dog, he mightn't have had to face Gabriel.
- Mind, all he winds up doing is buying a few minutes. Awesomely.
Gabriel: Lucifer, you're my brother, and I love you. But you are a great big bag of dicks.
- Oh, except he also winds up telling the brothers how to stop Lucifer for good.
- On the Community episode "Pillows and Blankets", while a campus-wide Civil War ragea round him, Jeff first exploits the conflict for personal gain. However, he makes a genuine stance once he sees that the friendship between Troy and Abed has seriously deteriorated. (Subverted in that instead of picking a side to support, he works towards the pair's reconciliation.)
- In the earliest episodes of Doctor Who the Doctor was nowhere close to the altruistic hero he is now. He traveled mostly to satisfy his own curiosities. It wasn't until his seventh serial, "The Sensorites", that he did the right thing precisely because it was the right thing to do.
- Dominion: Michael states that during the Extermination War, the other archangels declared neutrality and sided with neither him and humanity nor Gabriel and the lesser angels. However, with The Chosen One revealed, Uriel at least has decided to enter the fray... and is Playing Both Sides for yet unrevealed ends.
- Babylon 5 sees a Civil War break out between the Earth Alliance military. One side being run by the tyrannical President Clark and the resistance being led by Captain John Sheridan. Originally, the different alien governments only provide support by announcing that they will do nothing to aid the Earth Government against Sheridan's rebellion. After hearing that Sheridan had been captured, all of the alien governments vote to provide full military support to aid the resistance in overthrowing Clark, both out gratitude to Sheridan for all he did for them in the Shadow War, as well as knowing that, along with his atrocities, Clark would also make Earth extremely isolationist or hostile to their different races. They note it as a rare occasion where the smart political decision is also the good moral decision.
- During BattleTech's Clan Invasion, ComStar - a NGO Super Power that manages the Subspace Ansible network in the Inner Sphere - remained neutral, providing their services to the invading Clans so long as they left ComStar alone. Eventually, ComStar gets wind that the end goal of the Clans is to retake Planet Terra, effectively their Mecca, which is inconveniently the headquarters of Comstar. After a schism with their leadership, ComStar's new leader challenges the Clans to a Trial Of Possession, unveiling the fact that for the past three hundred years, they have been amassing an army backed up by Lost Technology that they have salvaged and stolen, including interstellar warships. ComStar kicks the crap out the Clans, forcing a truce and giving the Inner Sphere time to rebuild for a counterattack.
- The third act of Dragon Age II revolves around Hawke finding it increasingly difficult to remain neutral as the tensions between the Mages and Templars rise in Kirkwall. At the end of the game, Anders destroys the Chantry, leaving there no middle ground left and no way to resolve the situation peacefully, forcing Hawke to pick a side.
- Another one from BioWare and Star Wars: Jolee Bindo from Knights of the Old Republic is a ex-Jedi in Sour Armor who left the Order and had self-exiled himself. Despite being neutral on the Karma Meter, and making a good show of not caring about the outcome of the current war, he is very quick to scold a player's Dark Side acts. When it comes down to the wire, he chooses the path of a Jedi and will positively refuse to join you if you choose Dark Side.
- Kreia from the second game is similar. She will chide the player for specifically Light Side or Dark side acts, seeing them as Stupid Good and Chaotic Stupid respectively. In the end she comes down on the Dark Side end, but it seems to be out of convenience more than actually accepting the Sith philosophy.
- Fallout: New Vegas has four endings to the main quest, three of which involve siding with one of three factions (the New California Republic, Caesar's Legion, or Mister House, with the fourth option to be seizing power for him/herself). In order to move into Act III of the game, the player must invoke this trope, forsaking at least two of the factions. There are even a handful of quests, such as "The House Has Gone Bust!" that can't be completed, only failed; the notification that you have failed them is letting you know that you have reached this stage.
- In Mega Man Zero 4, the human refugees of Area Zero, known as Caravan, prefer to stay out of the war between the La Résistance (who they only see as terrorists with petty goals) and Neo Arcadia (which has fallen into dictatorial rule). However, over the course of the game, upon seeing that the Resistance's goals were no different from their own, the Caravan finally welcomes their help in fighting off and finally defeating the Neo Arcadian army. At the end of the game, in fact, they all mourn for Zero's Heroic Sacrifice, knowing that all of it would never have been possible without his efforts.
- In Rogue Galaxy, Broken Hero Deego Aegis could care less about the Morarty family taking over Vedan. He would like nothing more than to spend the rest of his life drinking away at his friend Angela's bar. However, once the Morarty Family burns down her bar, Deego is more than willing to make a stand against them.
- Many of the characters in the original Suikoden are True Neutral and forced out of retirement. Most of them join La Résistance because The Empire attacked/drafted them, but one notable occasion has La Résistance itself drafting a forger who wants live a quiet life.
- And in Suikoden V, one of the Stars is a doctor who struggles to remain neutral in the civil war due to a desire to help the wounded and ill on both sides. Eventually, however, he begins to realize that the Godwin's absolutely have to be stopped, and promptly joins the Prince's army.
- Suikoden V also has the Oboro Detective Agency, who go through several layers of this. First, Oboro must be convinced to officially join the Prince, which can go very easily if he was impressed by the Prince helping out their investigation earlier or poorly if the Prince made a wrong choice or two (or missed out on the investigation entirely). When he finally does join, Sagiri chooses to Opt Out, staying with the agency but refusing to join the war effort... unless the Prince finds somebody else and tries to recruit them, leading to Sagiri revealing her reasons for not wanting to fight before deciding to sign on anyway.
- Played with in the second Avernum game: the Empire-Avernum War is interrupted by the Vahnatai, who start out as "neutral" in the sense that they're targeting all humans due to the theft of their revered Crystal Souls. When Imperial involvement in the theft is exposed - and, more importantly, when your party clears the Avernites of any wrong-doing - the Vahnatai side with your people against the Empire.
- Subverted in the third and fourth games, when Rentar-Ihrno continues to seek vengeance against first the Empire and then Avernum, despite the majority of the Vahnatai preferring to remain neutral.
- In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the new playable races, the worgen on the Alliance side, and the goblins on the Horde side, are suddenly thrust into the conflict by the re-emergence of the black dragon Deathwing, and the subsequent run-ins with opposing factions. The worgen, whose isolationism is forcibly broken by the Cataclysm, are fighting off an invasion by the undead Forsaken who want to annex their lands for a strategic harbour. The goblins escape a volcanic eruption on their home island, only to be shipwrecked after their boat is sunk by Alliance crossfire at sea.
- The high elves originally wanted to stay out of the various wars, and only aided the Alliance enough to defeat the Horde during the Second War. While some remained part of the Alliance, the majority retreated to their nation and tried to ignore the Third War... until the Scourge invaded and killed ninety percent of their population. The survivors tried to make amends with the Alliance, but their liaison took every opportunity to try and undermine them, eventually leading to their racial Face-Heel Turn.
- The novel Wolfheart shows that the process of the worgen becoming part of the Alliance is far from smooth. Namely, most of the Alliance members approved... except for King Varian Wrynn of Stormwind, the strongest member of the Alliance. Varian isn't so much opposed to the animalistic nature of the worgen as to the fact that they left the Alliance when the Alliance needed them. Later on, Varian and King Greymane reconcile their differences, and Varian leads the worgen in a charge that utterly devastates the Horde, which is in the process of curb-stomping the night elves.
- In the forthcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion, Dalaran goes down this path after the Horde uses Dalaran's neutral portal network to sneak into the Alliance city of Darnassus. Jaina, Dalaran's newly-appointed leader, reacts by giving the Horde citizens and soldiers in Dalaran an ultimatum: leave or be imprisoned indefinitely. And then her companion Vereesa, wife of the deceased former leader of Dalaran, has the player kill anyone who does try to escape.
- Similarly, in Mists, the Klaxxi Paragons, and perhaps their entire race, join Garrosh and the (evil) Horde. They are bosses in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid. This is solely because Garrosh possesses the heart of their deity, which they outright stated at the beginning that they would turn on you for. No one probably would have guessed that the Klaxxi would join Garrosh of all people, but at the moment, he is their god incarnate, therefore, they have finally chosen a side. This doesn't end well for them.
- In Final Fantasy VI the city of Narshe originally refused to take a stand against the Empire, believing it only attacked people who sided with the Returners. After the Empire attack them a couple of times anyway, to get at the Frozen Esper, they decided to join with the Returners.
- Cloud of Final Fantasy VII starts off neutral towards Shinra, though he gets personally invested in the conflict eventually.
- In the early timeline of the X-Universe the Boron are relatively small and weak and just want to be left alone. The Argon are emphatically not small and weak, but they too have chosen to remain neutral. The Split, a trigger-happy race of violent psychopaths, hate the Boron and start a war with them. The poor militarily-inferior Boron are reduced to just their home sector, and this slaughter finally moves the Argon to pity. They renounce their neutrality, turn on their war machine on the Split and curb-stomp them back to their home sectors. A long alliance with the Boron results.
- The Boron, having almost been annihilated, finally understand that neutrality is impossible, and they themselves gear up for war.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Jarl Balgruuf the Greater of Whiterun initially maintains a position of neutrality in the Civil War, refusing to get involved (though he has no fondness for Ulfric Stormcloak). Eventually, if you start the questline, Ulfric forces his hand by sieging the city of Whiterun, causing Balgruuf to side with the Imperials. Speaking to him afterwards will have him reveal that he has nothing but contempt for Ulfric, who he regards as a power-hungry barbarian.
- In Tears to Tiara 2, the city of Tartessos honors an ancient treaty to the Barcids to serve as the capital of Hispania. It then proceeds to remain completely indifferent besides having its groundkeeper tag along with The Party, despite being invaded and having its walls broken down. Finally when it witness Monomachus' Last Stand defending it, it joins in the fight and easily wins with Story-Breaker Power. Though it pretty much goes back to being neutral right after, being originally a city of the dragons and all.
- Shin Megami Tensei games often have shattering revelations or events that force everyone's hand, driving them over and over into the Order Versus Chaos Forever War.
- In Sluggy Freelance Bun-Bun is frequently the subject of this trope. As a Heroic Comedic Sociopath, he's frequently disinterested in whatever life and death struggle everyone else may be involved in, but more often than not the Big Bad du jour will do something that irritates Bun-Bun in some way (or the heroes will tell Bun-Bun the Big Bad did something irritating). Cue the Revenge of the Killer Rabbit.